Long Insurance Services of Kernersville, NC


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The Safest Cars of 2021

IIHS: The Safest Cars of 2021

For safety-conscious drivers, the 2021 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety TOP SAFETY PICK awards represent a wealth of choices.

Each year, the IIHS, a nonprofit research and education organization, conducts tests to determine which vehicles do the best job of protecting people in the most common kinds of crashes — front, side, rollover and rear. Vehicles must also score well in front crash prevention and headlights.

The IIHS awarded winners in 11 size categories, from small cars to large pickups. This year’s number of vehicles on the IIHS list increased by more than 50 percent over 2020, and the cars earning the premium TOP SAFETY PICK+ accolade more than doubled.

WHAT MAKES A TOP SAFETY PICK?

Almost every year, the IIHS slightly adjusts its criteria for vehicles to earn either TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ status. When establishing the criteria for the awards, the IIHS phases in new requirements gradually – first as criteria for the “plus” award, then later for the regular TOP SAFETY PICK award. This gives automakers time to plan ahead and adjust future designs.

Here are a few features you’ll find in this year’s top rated vehicles:

  • Headlight improvements: Starting last year, only vehicles with good or acceptable headlights across all trims and packages could earn TOP SAFETY PICK+ status. By keeping this standard, automakers responded by more doubling the vehicles that qualify.
  • Front crash prevention: Vehicles are not required to have standard front crash prevention to qualify for the awards, but it didn’t hurt any of the winners. All 49 TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners and 31 TOP SAFETY PICK winners have standard systems that meet the vehicle-to-vehicle requirement. And all but one of the “plus” picks also meet the prevention criterion with their standard systems.
  • Crashworthiness: Of course, all award winners need strong performance in all six IIHS crash tests. Last year, the IIHS required a higher standard of “good” in the passenger-side small overlap front test. (In 2019, the lower “acceptable” rating was sufficient to win an award.)

For more details on how IIHS crash tests work (and what they look for), visit the safety ratings page on the IIHS website.

THE 2021 TOP SAFETY PICK+ WINNERS

In all, 90 cars and SUVs earned TOP SAFETY PICK status, including 49 that achieved the elite “plus” distinction. This total represents a marked increase from 2020, when 64 models were named TOP SAFETY PICKs and 23 garnered plus designation.

Volvo paced the field with nine TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards. The Swedish automaker placed four models each in the midsize luxury car (S60, S60 Recharge, V60 and V60 Recharge) and midsize luxury SUV (XC 60, XC60 Recharge, XC90 and XC90 Recharge) categories, while its XC40 also earned the distinction in the small SUV class.

Hyundai Motor Group —which manufactures the Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands — again led all automakers with 12 overall TOP SAFETY PICKS, including five pluses. The Hyundai Palisade and Nexo, Genesis G70 and G90, and the Kia K5 each earned top marks.

For the full list of winners and ratings, visit iihs.org/ratings.

INSURANCE FOR NEW AND USED CARS

Car shopping can represent the perfect time to reconsider your auto insurance. Here are a few related stories from our blog that might provide some helpful insight:

Whether you plan on purchasing a 2021 TOP SAFETY PICK, a different vehicle or are sticking with your current set of wheels, a local ERIE agent is ready to help you find the perfect coverage for you. Contact them today to start a conversation.

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How To Prevent Frozen Pipes

How To Prevent Frozen Pipes

Frigid winter temperatures can cause pipes to freeze – or even burst. Do you know how to tell if pipes are frozen? We’ve pulled together tips to help prevent frozen pipes and a list of suggestions for you to follow if they do freeze.

Pro tip: Know ahead of time how your homeowners insurance can kick in to help repair damage from a frozen and burst water pipe. Not sure if you’re covered? Talk to a local ERIE agent to find out.

SYMPTOMS OF FROZEN PIPES

One of the earliest signs of a frozen pipe is when no water comes out of your faucet when you turn it on. If you notice that, head first to the basement and check to see that the water is still turned on and that you don’t have a leak. Once you’ve confirmed these two things, continue your inspection to make sure one of your pipes has not burst. If your search reveals that your pipes are frozen but none have ruptured, you have two choices:

  • Call a plumber to help thaw your frozen pipes. Most times, this is a better idea if you don’t think you can safely thaw the pipes yourself, you don’t know where the frozen pipes are or you can’t access the frozen area.
  • Attempt to thaw the frozen pipes yourself. Be aware this option can be dangerous if not done correctly.

HOW TO FIX FROZEN PIPES

If you’re not an experienced DIY-er, it’s safer to defer this one to a professional. However, there are fast fixes you can try if you’re experienced with home maintenance work. If you attempt to thaw the frozen pipes yourself, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Keep your faucet open. Water and steam will be created during the thawing process, and your pipes need an opening to discharge this. Keeping the faucet open also allows for moving water to run through the pipe, which will expedite the thawing process.
  • Apply heat to the section of the pipe that is frozen. This can be done by wrapping an electronic heating pad around the pipe, heating the area with a hair dryer or both. If you lack either of these items, using towels soaked in hot water will help as well.  Remember, this is a temporary fix and the heating pad should not be left unattended to prevent a fire.
  • Know what not to do. Never use a blowtorch, propane or kerosene heaters, a charcoal stove or any other open flame device to thaw your frozen pipes. That presents a severe fire hazard. You should also avoid using a space heater unless you are sure the area is clear of any flammable material. Again, never leave the space heater unattended.
  • Continue applying heat until water flow returns to normal. Once you have successfully thawed the pipe, turn on other faucets in your home to check for any more frozen water pipes.
  • Take swift action if the frozen pipes are located inside an exterior wall. This is a serious situation when you should call a professional contractor, as repairs may involve cutting a hole in the wall toward the inside of the house to expose those pipes to warmer air.

HOW TO PREVENT FROZEN PIPES

While we can’t control the weather, there are things we can do to prevent pipes from freezing. To prevent pipes from freezing and causing major damage, follow these steps:

  • Drain water from pipes that are likely to freeze. This includes your swimming pool and sprinkler water supply lines.
  • Disconnect any hoses from the outside of your home, drain the hoses and store them in the garage. Make sure to close the indoor valves supplying these outdoor access points.
  • Insulate the area around vents and light fixtures. This helps prevent heat from escaping into the attic.
  • Seal any wall cracks. Be sure to pay careful attention to the areas around utility service lines.
  • Open kitchen cabinets. This allows the warm air to circulate around the pipes.
  • Keep the garage doors closed to protect water lines.
  • Allow your faucets to drip cold water on the coldest days. The movement will make it harder for the water to freeze.
  • Keep your thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Never let it fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit when you leave your home.
  • Ensure you have proper seals on all doors and windows.
  • Place a 60-watt bulb in areas where you’re concerned about pipes freezing. Make sure there are no combustible materials near the bulb.

PROTECTION FROM FROZEN WATER PIPES

Frozen water pipes and the damage they can cause are a reality for thousands of people each year. That’s especially the case when you are at below freezing temperatures for an extended period of time.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety says a burst pipe can cause more than $5,000 in water damage. That’s because the damage can be extensive.

“We see about 2,000 claims per day during an average January winter,” says Chris Zimmer, senior vice president of claims for Erie Insurance. “A number of them are due to frozen water pipes.”

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Driving in Winter

How NOT to Drive in Winter Weather

Driving in WinterWinter driving has its challenges. But throw an inexperienced — or inconsiderate — driver into the mix, and your daily commute can get much more difficult.

It’s always aggravating when other drivers put you at risk. Getting stuck behind a driver who is spinning their tires or not paying attention isn’t just annoying… it’s dangerous.

Related: The 7 Biggest Winter Driving Myths, Debunked

Winter driving calls for quick decision making, patience and a little bit of know-how. Below you’ll find ways to spot a rookie winter driver — and how to avoid looking like one yourself:

6 COMMON MISTAKES OF WINTER DRIVERS

  1. Tailgating: Usually, drivers tailgate because they want the car in front of them to go faster. This is never OK, especially in the winter months. It takes longer to come to a stop in the winter, so you should always put more distance between you and the car ahead. Impatience on the road rarely pays off – tailgating just puts you and others at risk.
  2. Speeding: Speeding can get you into trouble quickly. Make sure you’re never driving faster than what is safe for the conditions. In snowy or icy conditions, that probably means driving below the speed limit. The faster you’re going, the more likely you are to lose control or slide into another car. Expect traffic to move a little slower in the winter and allow extra time to get to your destination.
  3. Getting stuck: Driving through deep snow may sound like fun, but chances are it will leave your tires spinning. For your own safety, know when to stay off the road altogether and drive carefully to avoid losing traction in the first place. After all, getting stuck is easy – getting out isn’t.
  4. Ice on the windshield: If your car has snow or ice on the windshield, it can be tempting to save time by letting your wipers or defroster remove it as you drive. But driving without full visibility is like driving blindfolded. Use a snow brush or ice scraper to clear your windshield entirely every time you get behind the wheel.  (And don’t just clear a little “window” you can see through!)
  5. Snow on the roof: If you’ve ever driven behind someone with snow on their roof, you know it can be an accident waiting to happen. If your car is covered in snow, take the time to clear your roof before you tackle the windows. You’ll keep snow from falling in your field of vision and from hitting the drivers behind you.
  6. Driving with high beams on: This can be frustrating in any condition, but some people think that high beams will increase your vision during whiteouts or heavy snowfall. In fact, fog lights and low beams will do much better. Learn what to do if you get stuck driving in a whiteout.

Just like other people’s driving, winter weather can be unpredictable. But even the safest, most experienced drivers can get into an accident. That’s why it’s important to have the right insurance to protect you and your vehicle. Learn about the extras available with every Erie Insurance auto policy.

WANT MORE TIPS FOR WINTER DRIVING?

Check out these related articles:

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Employee Performance Reviews

Employee Performance Reviews

But I thought I was doing so well!

I’ve been here for 30 years. You’re just telling me this now?

Susan comes in late every day, and she’s never been written up. What gives?

Let’s face it: If you’re a business owner or a manager, employee performance appraisals can be uncomfortable. No one likes to receive a “surprise” evaluation that they’re not performing well. What’s more, if you ignore a small issue with an employee now, it could eventually snowball into a bigger problem later… at worst, it could result in an employment lawsuit.

5 WAYS TO ADDRESS POOR PERFORMANCE WITH AN EMPLOYEE

Having an established and documented employee performance review can help your business avoid costly discrimination lawsuits. If an employee is underperforming, here’s how to handle it.

  • Be direct and honest. First things first: A poor performance review should never come as a “surprise.” Good managers address poor performance directly when it happens—and always with transparency and empathy.
  • Be consistent. Consistency is key to avoiding claims of discrimination. Make sure you’re holding all your employees to the same standard. For example: If you discipline a low-performing employee for being late, don’t look the other way if a high-performing employee comes in late. (Related: Are you covered when an employee claims harassment or discrimination?)
  • Keep it objective. Hold your employees to an objective standard that they know and have agreed to—for example, an attendance policy or employee handbook. Ensure there’s a legitimate business reason for discipline and avoid the temptation to provide overly subjective feedback.
  • Write it down. Document every action you take during the disciplinary process, including verbal warnings. Writing it down gives you credibility and lets the employee know the specifics of how to improve their performance and what consequences are at stake if they don’t. For serious or final warnings, ask your employee to sign and date the document and add a space for them to comment with feedback.
  • Know when to ask for help. If you feel over your head, reach out to a trusted mentor who has handled employee conduct issues before. And if things get really complicated, contact a human resources or legal professional who knows the ins and outs of employment law.

HOW CAN I PROTECT MY BUSINESS AGAINST DISCRIMINATION OR HARASSMENT LAWSUITS?

Imagine a worst-case scenario: An employee sues your business for sexual harassment or discrimination (for example, on the basis of age, sex, race or disability). Unfortunately, these types of lawsuits do happen and even if the allegations are found to be groundless, responding to charges like these can cost thousands of dollars.

You can help protect your business by adding Employment Practices Liability (EPL) coverage to your business insurance policy. Most standard EPL insurance policies offer a measure of protection against lawsuits brought against your business by employees alleging wrongful acts (sexual harassment or discrimination) or wrongful termination. You can purchase and add the coverage to your business policy as an endorsement. Learn more about our custom solutions for business insurance.

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15 Common Questions About Life Insurance

15 Common Questions About Life Insurance

Life isn’t one-size-fits-all – and neither is life insurance.

Planning for the future can feel exciting and scary at the same time. Whether you’re buying your very first policy or planning for the next chapter of your legacy, it’s common to have questions.

Here are some common questions you might be wondering. (Want a more personalized answer – or a quote? Talk to your local ERIE agent.)

  1. How much life insurance do I need, anyway? A number of factors – including your age, debts, monthly expenses and number of children – can influence how much life insurance you may need to comfortably plan for your future. A local insurance professional like an ERIE agent can give you a free quote based on your unique needs. As a general rule of thumb, the experts at LifeHappens.org recommend purchasing a policy worth 10 to 15 times your gross income. Try out our free life insurance calculator for a private, no-obligation estimate you can do right at home.
  2. Isn’t life insurance really expensive? Purchasing an insurance policy worth hundreds of thousands of dollars may sound like an expensive proposition. But the truth is, life insurance is more affordable than you may think. With Erie Family Life, a $250,000 life insurance policy could cost less than $15 a month1.
  3. Do I need a medical exam to purchase life insurance? Not always, but do expect to answer certain questions. Generally speaking, it’s more likely you’ll need an exam as your age and/or the amount of coverage requested increases. For some life insurance policies, your insurer will require a brief medical exam, more commonly referred to as a paramedical exam. It’s similar to a basic physical. A paramedical exam professional will measure vitals like your height, weight, temperature and blood pressure. You’ll also have to have blood drawn and a urinalysis test completed.
  4. Can I purchase life insurance without a health exam? Not all life policies require you to get a paramedical exam. Life policies below $100,000 typically require you to only complete an application (with the help of your agent) before it is reviewed by an underwriter2. Looking for more coverage? Ask your local agent about ERIExpress Life. If you’re between the ages of 18-55, you may be able to get an instant-issue term or whole life policy with up to $500,000 in coverage by answering several application questions without having to complete a life insurance paramedical medical exam 2.
  5. Why should I think about life insurance if I’m young and healthy? Life insurance is a smart purchase at any age. Even if no one depends on your monthly income, a life insurance policy will cover your funeral expenses and debts — including student loans. And there’s another advantage of purchasing a policy at a young age: lower rates. Because insurers price policies based on risk (and young people have a far lower mortality rate than older groups), your rates are generally less expensive if you’re young and healthy. Buying a policy when you’re young and healthy makes it easier for you to buy more coverage in the future. Plus, you’ll have a policy (locked in at a great rate) now, should you ever need it.
  6. I have a policy through work. Isn’t that enough? As part of an overall benefits package, many employers offer some form of life insurance coverage to their employees. Since this coverage is typically paid for by the employer, it’s a great benefit to have. But it’s still wise to hold your own personal life insurance policy. There are a few reasons for this. First, the coverage provided by your employer might not be enough to support your family in the event of your death. Employer-provided life insurance often covers you for a low set amount — like $50,000. Additionally, your coverage will be lost if you take another job or find yourself unemployed. Read more in our related story on why it matters to have life insurance outside of work.
  7. I don’t work outside the home. Why should I think about life insurance? Being a stay-at-home parent is a full-time job. And while your work may not generate an income, it does significantly reduce your household expenses. Think of all the extra costs associated with child care, transportation and meal preparation that would be incurred if you were no longer around. Just because you don’t bring home a paycheck doesn’t mean you aren’t making a significant contribution to your family’s bottom line. Read more about life insurance for stay-at-home parents.
  8. What’s the difference between term and permanent life insurance? Term life insuranceprovides coverage over a fixed period of time. Term life insurance is a cost-effective option to provide protection for the loved ones you leave behind. With this type of policy, you can select a term that will cover you when you need it most — such as the time it will take your children to reach adulthood. Permanent policies, such as whole life policies, provide coverage over your entire lifetime.2 That means your family and beneficiaries are covered for the duration of your life. Whole life insurance accumulates cash value, too, providing you the option of borrowing against it in the future.3
  9. I’m a rock climber. Can you still cover me? Assessing risk is a key component of underwriting a life insurance policy.  Dangerous hobbies — like skydiving, rock climbing or vehicle racing — make you inherently riskier to insure. However, just because you’re an adrenaline junkie doesn’t automatically mean you can’t get life insurance. Before giving you a quote, your insurance agent may ask you to fill out a written questionnaire to understand more about your hobby. In many cases, you’ll still be able to get insurance. Just expect to pay a little extra to account for the additional risk.
  10. Can I “stretch the truth” a little in my life insurance application to get a better rate? When applying for a life insurance policy, you’ll get asked questions about your occupation, health, family medical history and potentially risky hobbies. While your answers to these questions may impact your insurance rates, you should always answer them truthfully.  Misrepresenting your health status or other important information in your application could result in negative consequences that might affect your coverage.
  11. Couldn’t my family just crowdfund my final expenses if I pass away unexpectedly? Websites like GoFundMe provide a platform for users to ask for online donations to cover funeral and burial costs, or to fund other memorial wishes in honor of a loved one who passed. But crowdfunding is no substitution for life insurance. Unlike a life insurance policy, the amount of money you’ll raise is totally unpredictable — and may be further reduced by fees and taxes.
  12. What is a life insurance beneficiary? A beneficiary is a person or entity designated to receive the funds from your life insurance policy in the event of your death. Your beneficiary can be a person, business, trust, charity, church or even a school. An insurance policy can have more than one beneficiary.
  13. How do I choose a beneficiary? Choosing a life insurance beneficiary depends largely on how you’d like your life insurance benefit to be used upon your death. If you have young children, naming a spouse or close family member you trust as your beneficiary and memorializing your wishes may be one way to provide for your children’s care in your absence. Grown children could use the insurance benefit to help pay for college. Ask your ERIE agent about how to leave your benefit to a charity, school or church. In those cases, it’s recommended to have your gift be consistent with an established pattern of giving or support. Read our related article on how to choose a life insurance beneficiary.
  14. Could I be the beneficiary of a long-lost life insurance policy? It’s estimated that $1 billion in benefits from forgotten and lost life insurance policies are sitting unclaimed in America. In light of that statistic, it’s possible you could be a beneficiary to a life insurance policy that you’re unaware of. Organizations like the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, which operates missingmoney.com, allow you to conduct a quick search online. Learn more in our related blog story on how to locate a lost life insurance policy.
  15. I don’t have kids. Why should I think about life insurance? The need for life insurance isn’t limited to parents. Whether you’re entering adulthood or nearing retirement, everyone can benefit from owning a life insurance policy. Beyond providing for children, a life insurance benefit can be used to cover expenses like funeral costs or pay off any outstanding debts.
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Medicare Supplement Insurance

Medicare Supplement Insurance: Is Plan F Going Away?

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, Medigap plans sold to people new to Medicare won’t be allowed to cover the Part B deductible. Because of this, Plans C and F will no longer be available to people who are new to Medicare on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

However, if you already have one of these two plans (or the high deductible version of Plan F), you’ll be able to keep your plan. Also, if you were eligible for Medicare before Jan. 1, 2020, but haven’t enrolled yet, you may still be able to buy one of these plans.

For individuals with existing Plan F coverage: If you ever decide to switch carriers for any reason, you’ll still be allowed to maintain your Plan F coverage. This type of change will be subject to underwriting, so those considering a switch should keep this in mind.

WHY IS PLAN F GOING AWAY?

On Jan. 1, 2020, MACRA officially takes effect. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) is the Federal Law that will be impacting Medicare Supplement plans in all states. Only beneficiaries with existing Plan F coverage will be able to keep Plan F. Plan G will be the new “go-to” plan for those newly eligible for coverage after Jan. 1, 2020.

WHAT IS PLAN G?

Medicare Parts A and B provide insurance coverage for health-related expenses, but they don’t cover all of the health care costs you may have. While all Medicare Supplement plans help offset those costs, Plan G will now offer the most comprehensive coverage for those becoming newly eligible to Medicare.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PLAN F AND PLAN G?

The key difference between Plan F and Plan G is that Plan G does not cover the Part B deductible. This is because the federal government wanted to have each beneficiary have a vested interest in their care. The good news: premiums for Plan G are generally less expensive by more than the $250 deductible amount. Meaning although you’ll be responsible for the $250 deductible, you could save more than $350 in total premium. (Premium savings will vary by carrier.)

WHAT DOES PLAN G COVER?

If you choose Medicare Supplement Plan G from Erie Family Life, you won’t incur any out-of-pocket costs for expenses such as:

  • Part A deductible
  • Part A hospital copayments
  • Part B copayments
  • Part B excess physician charges
  • Skilled nursing facility coinsurance
  • Foreign emergency care

Medicare Supplement Plan G will still be a great option for those becoming newly eligible for Medicare. Plan G continues to allow you to choose any physician for your care, including specialists, while eliminating many out-of-pocket expenses associated with that care. Instead of paying copays and deductibles, you’ll pay a monthly premium for your Medicare Supplement plan.

AM I ELIGIBLE FOR A MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT PLAN?

If you are age 65 or over and enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B, you can apply for a Medicare Supplement plan policy.

You can apply for a Medicare Supplement plan policy if you are age 65 or over and enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. The one-time Open Enrollment period, which begins on the first day of the month an individual is 65, or older, and enrolled in Part B provides for guaranteed issue. Individuals under age 65 eligible for and enrolled in Part B; are not eligible for guaranteed issue unless they have lost or are losing creditable coverage. In some states, Medicare Supplement insurance policies are available to people with disabilities who are under the age 65.

If you’re considering a Medicare Supplement plan, a great place to start is by contacting your ERIE agent or find a local agent. Have your Medicare ID card ready. Your agent can help answer your questions to determine which plan is right for you, and provide a free quote.

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